Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Social Media Has Made Me Lazy and What it Means for the Church

Has social media changed the way people think and experience the world? In 1997 I didn't even have a computer. I was the college kid who either used the school's computer lab or mooched off my friends who did have them. I remember how the internet became this new thing and how you could set up your own free email account. I also remember how cool it was that I could type something and my friend could respond. Not only was there email, but there were websites with all kinds of information about my favorite bands, celebrities, and sports teams. Any time I wanted information about these things, I could just go to www. "thatthing" .com. And that was all well and good for another 10 years or so until the popularity explosion of social media sites, like Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter. Now my favorite bands, celebrities, and sports teams don't wait for me to come to their website, they send information to me through social media.

While this is a great way to receive information, this has made me lazy (lazier than I already was for those of you who know me). In some ways I'm content just waiting on my favorite feeds to be updated. I find myself, not going out looking for new information, but watching the stream on Twitter or Facebook waiting for new information that might be remotely interesting from someone, somewhere. And I can't help but feel that I'm not alone in this. So what has this paradigm done to the church?

1. We are so plugged into people commenting "about" scripture, that we don't consult scripture itself like we used to. Everyone seems to be concerned with being profound (and some people are or at least they retweet those who are), but in all of this profundity, sometimes we forget about the original substance of all of it-scripture. We all follow church leaders and great Christian thinkers and hang on the tidbits of wisdom they have to share, but what about scripture? I'm not saying that mega-church pastors and authors shouldn't be followed, but we get so excited about something Francis Chan or Rick Warren said, all the while our Bible is sitting on our desk (I'm convicted as I type this).

2. People may be decreasingly seeing the need to attend church as we know it because so much spiritual fodder is delivered right to their favorite tech toy. While the world may come to our fingertips through social media, the gospel demands that we "go." Christianity is proactive. So for the church leader, we must still find ways to impact the world. For the lay person, it means continuing to attend church and being involved as a spiritual discipline, rather than waiting for the kingdom of God to manifest itself through your Blackberry.

3. One-sided monologue sermons may be losing their luster as people are enamored with the interactive "reply/comment" nature of social media. Whether or not the Sunday sermon is becoming a thing of the past remains to be seen, but I do think that many churches are taking strides to explore different models for their services in an attempt to stay culturally relevant. Many pastors are using their Twitter accounts to put out sermon teasers in the days leading up to Sunday, while others are even tweeting during the sermon.

What trends have you seen as social media has impacted people and the church? Do you think things are changing or do you think while some things change, some things are here to stay?

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